This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Recipe collection: Homemade Salad Dressings

One of the first and most frustrating gluten-free searches we had at the beginning was for salad dressing that was both tasty and willing to declare gluten-free.  Eventually, Hidden Valley Ranch came on-board and started labeling many of their products, but by then I had discovered just how easy salad dressing is to make, and how much tastier it can be when fresh.

The Vinaigrette

I was first introduced to these by a host family in France, who would whip up a little balsamic vinaigrette every night for the salad course.  Since then, I've learned that you can build an enormous range of flavors from the basic combination of acid and oil that is a vinaigrette.  These are best made right before you use them.  If you use a lightweight vegetable oil they may keep in the refrigerator for a day or two, but many oils will thicken up when cold and create an unpleasant texture.  If you are adding dried herbs, make them before you start the rest of the meal prep so that they have a little time to activate the flavor of the herbs. 

You can make vinaigrettes in a cup and whisk with a fork right before serving, but I like to keep a few clean jars (nutella or jam size) around.  Just toss the ingredients in and give it a good shake to mix. 

Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of fresh-ground pepper
drop of dijon mustard

(increase amounts as needed for multiple people)

This is the classic recipe my host family used, and works well on salads with strong flavors (bitter greens, spicy peppers or meats, sharp cheeses).  If I want to add some variety I will include 1/4 teaspoon basil or rosemary to the mix.

Apple Cider Vinaigrette:
Apple cider vinaigrette with rosemary

1/4 cup-1/3 cup apple cider vinager (to taste)
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch each of salt, pepper, sugar (or a few drops of honey)

(increase amounts as needed for multiple people)

This goes well with a combination of strong, fruity flavors, such as field greens with granny smith apples, dried cranberries, and sharp cheddar cheese.  It is even more delicious with some dried rosemary, but let it steep a few minutes before serving to bring the flavor out.

Red/White Wine Vinaigrette

1/3 cup wine vinager
1/3 cup lightly flavored salad oil (light olive oil, canola, etc.)
pinch of salt and pepper

(increase amounts as needed for multiple people)

This makes a lightly flavored base that will work well with added flavorings like fresh or dried herbs, fruit juice, etc.

Avocado Vinaigrette

1/3 cup mashed very ripe avocado
1/3 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
pinch of salt

(increase amounts as needed for multiple people)

Spice it up some chopped cilantro, and a few drops of lime juice (a little goes a long way!)  Does not store well, but makes a delicious, creamy, nutritious dressing for taco salad or something with grilled peppers and tomatoes.

Bacon Vinaigrette

1/3 cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup bacon drippings, still warm (or 2 tablespoons drippings with salad oil to make up the rest of the 1/3 cup, plus some bacon crumbles)
pinch of fresh-ground pepper

Eat this on a salad of fresh spinach, gouda cheese, bacon crumbles, candied nuts, and sliced strawberries, and you will never put up with an overpriced restaurant salad again.  If you don't have the candied nuts, try adding a few drops of maple syrup to the vinaigrette. Your arteries might not thank me, but your tastebuds will!

Essentially, you mix some form of vinegar half and half with an oil or fat, add a few spices, and mix well to emulsify.  It should be easy to come up with your own combinations!


Most of these are easy to make, and have the added bonus of surviving up to three days in the fridge for future salads and/or chip and veggie dip.  The base is very simple:  mix 2 parts sour cream to 1 part mayonnaise, add spices, then thin with milk until you have the consistency you like.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles (or chopped Roquefort)
milk as needed to thin.

One of the recipes that will have you swearing off store-bought forever.  It doesn't have to sit; you can toss it together right before you eat.  Blue cheeses go really well with sweet, so salads with chopped apples, pears, and berries will all love this dressing.  It also makes a great dip for pizza, chips, pretzels, etc.

Creamy Dill Dressing

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill (or 2-3 tablespoons dried, but let dressing sit for at least 20 minutes to develop flavor)
milk as needed to thin

Also excellent for a veggie dip

Homemade Ranch

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp dried parsley
pinch salt, pepper
milk or buttermilk to thin as needed

This one does have a time limit; after more than 12 hours or so the garlic gets really potent, and by the second day it is overwhelming.  You want to make it about 20-30 minutes before eating to let the flavors blend, and finish the batch the same day.  Luckily, ranch goes with everything!


 Thousand Island Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4-1/3 cup tomato ketchup (to taste)
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
salt, pepper to taste
milk to thin, as needed

French Dressing

1/2 cup olive or salad oil
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1-2 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste

To make this Russian dressing, substitute mayonnaise for the olive oil, and add 1 teaspoon horseradish, a dash of hot sauce, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Gluten-Free Norway: A Chocolate Tour

 If you're in Norway long enough, you may eventually need some chocolate.  Maybe as a quick energy boost while hiking.  Maybe as a comfort food when the days start shrinking.  Maybe as a quick and easy dessert when you've used up both your pans in your tiny kitchenette. 

In Trondheim, at least, there seem to be two companies that completely dominate the chocolate and candy market:  Freia and Nidar. Freia also corners the market on baking chocolate, chocolate sauce, chocolate, cream, and fruit sauces, etc. in the local grocery stores.  Unfortunately, nearly every single one of their products carries a "kan inneholde spor av gluten" warning (may contain traces of gluten).  The one exception is a set of heart-shaped milk chocolate pieces, which I have only seen in one store (the Meny in Solsiden).  There are also a few specialty gourmet chocolate bars (usually dark) offered in most allergen-free sections of stores, and some fancy/expensive items with the regular chocolate/candy selection.  If you can tolerate trace amounts of gluten, then your go-to for milk chocolate should be Kinder, which is a deliciously creamy milk truffle dipped in high-quality milk chocolate.

If you want something that is both free from trace gluten, widely available, and inexpensive, though, your options become limited.  Nidar is pretty much the go-to, because they offer a detailed allergen chart of their products:
  •  Visit their allergen information page here
  • Click on the link to "Allergentabell" on the right hand side of their website to open it in a spreadsheet program such as Excel or Librecalc.
  • The product name is on the left.  Each allergen is marked as "Resept," if the allergen is a primary ingredient (such as nuts in a peanut butter bar), or "Spor" if traces of the allergen may be present, even if not part of the regular ingredients. 
A few warnings:
  • Nidar maintains a separate English-language site, also with an allergen table, but the table on their English site is dated 2012, and may have out-of-date information.  The Norwegian-language site's table is from 2015.
  • It is worth running the allergen information page through Google Translate for additional information.  For instance, they mention that their marzipan contains glucose syrup made from wheat.  So while it is technically gluten-free, those who are otherwise wheat-sensitive may still react.  
Now that the technical information is out of the way, let's get to the chocolate itself!  After months of very little chocolate, I have taken the Nidar allergy list to the store and bought one of everything they had that was chocolate and not marked as having any trace of gluten.

Or licorice.  There is a Norwegian obsession with licorice (including in the first brand of toothpaste I tried when we arrived) and that's just not going to happen.  If you're the sort that actually likes it, you're on your own.  Ditto with the salt candy. 

The Chocolates

#1 Nidar Smørbukk Bar
Score: 4 stars (out of 5)

  One of the GIANT chocolate bars found in most grocery stores, this one is simply chocolate covered caramel.  The Smørbukk caramels are also sold as individually wrapped, unchocolated bites, and are one of the best sweets you can find here.  So the deliciousness doesn't suffer much from being coated in somewhat indifferent chocolate.  Overall, reminiscent of "Rollo" candies from the U.S.

#4 Nidar Cuba
Score: 4 stars (out of 5)

 This chocolate seems to be an outlier in that it uses a lot of natural ingredients (sugar instead of glucose syrup, powdered milk, palm and shea oils, chocolate, almonds, soy lecithin, salt).  As a result, it is less intensely sweet than most of the chocolates I've tried. It is an almond and chocolate truffle coated with milk chocolate.  Very classic, decent chocolate, and in a small bar for when you don't want a yard of chocolate.  

#3 Nidar Stratos Melky
Score: 3.75 stars (out of 5)

This is Nidar's answer to the fantastically delicious Kinder milk bars, (which unfortunately may contain traces of gluten). The milk truffle center helps offset the poor-quality chocolate, and makes this a perfectly edible little snack.  Not Kinder, but I would buy them again.  


#4 Nidar Troika
Score: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

From the Russian word for a group of three, this bar has three layers: marzipan, chocolate truffle, and raspberry jelly.  It is coated in dark chocolate.  It is one of Nidar's tastier options, with a little more going on than just so many of their other options.  Note that Nidar's marzipan uses glucose syrup made from wheat, and so while gluten-free, may not be safe for people with other wheat sensitivity.

 #5 Nidar Gullbrød
Score: 3 stars (out of 5)

This isn't as overwhelmingly sweet as some of the other sweets I've tried.  It is essentially chocolate-covered marzipan.  So it is mellow, filling, and just sweet enough to fill an energy craving.  In fact, it might make excellent hiking food.  Note that Nidar marzipan contains glucose syrup (what we call "corn syrup") made from wheat.  While it is technically gluten-free, those with other wheat sensitivities should avoid).

 #6  Nidar Stratos
Score: 2.5 stars (out of 5)

I didn't understand the chocolate air-bubbles when Hershey did it, and I don't understand doing it with relatively cheap, waxy chocolate either. For "foamed" chocolate to work, it really needs to very high quality, and this just isn't it.  On the plus side, it's a GIANT SLAB of chocolate (I didn't add something for scale, but the bar is about 8 inches long) and breaks into little bite-size pieces.  This might be good to keep in the cupboard when you just want a bit of chocolate in passing.

#7 Nidar Hobby
Score 2.5 stars (out of 5)

 This was a strange one.  There is a layer of marshmallow-like "foam, and a layer of some kind of jelly.  I couldn't identify the flavor of the jelly, but it was vaguely reminiscent of fake cherry syrup, with a strong sugar-alcohol flavor and a small amount of crystallized crunch.  On their website, it says the jelly flavor is banana, to which I raise a puzzled eyebrow.  Apparently this is really popular among kids here. 


 #8 Nidar Kremtopper

Score: 2 stars (out of 5)

 These looked promising, coming in a fancy-ish box that might even pass as a hostess gift if you are invited to someone's home for dinner.  But their reality is more like the dollar-store cherry cordials you get at home; really, really sweet, but not much else.  The chocolate part is particularly cheap and waxy, and the vanilla cream has a texture like a Junior Mint.  On the plus side, if you packed them hiking, they probably wouldn't get crushed in your pack.

The takeaway from this exploration for me is that we are thoroughly spoiled by high-quality milk chocolate in the U.S.  It really isn't one of the Norwegian specialty foods.  The best chocolates I've found here are imported, and if you really want a chocolate treat your best bet is to grab a Snickers.  They have a surprisingly wide market here, unlike any other candy we're used to seeing in the U.S.

More to come!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Recipe Box: How to Build a Perfect Soup (Block Method)

I think that many people just learning to cook think a soup is a mysterious high art, or a ridiculously complicated all-day project.  It can be, but it doesn't have to be.  There are a few basic building blocks which, when made in the right order, can give you perfect results every time. 
Setting up each block ahead of time in bowls will make the process really fast and simple, and minimize any problems. 

Try to use the soup pot for the entire cooking process.  All the flavor on the bottom of the pan after cooking meats and vegetables goes to waste if you use a separate pan.  Alternately, you can add water to the frying pan after cooking each step, cook off the nice caramelized bits into the water (deglazing), then use it as your water for the soup.

I use parboiled (instant/10-minute) rice, or cold pre-cooked rice, because I have thrown away too many pots of soup already in my lifetime.  If the soup thickens too much when cooking the rice, it will spend an hour as grit, then go directly to mush.  If you're using raw rice, set it to cooking before you start the soup, and add it last (block 7).  

Block 1:  Protein

This is essentially meat or soy.  It does not include shellfish, as these cook so quickly they should be almost the last thing in the pot. 

Fry up your protein to golden brown in oil, and set the cooked meat and juices aside in a bowl.  If there are a lot of fat drippings (as in bacon or hamburger) reserve a few tablespoons and discard or store the rest.  

Block 2: Root Vegetables you want fully cooked

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery root, etc. These take longer to cook, but have enough starch to crisp up nicely.  Have these cut into small bite-size pieces or thin slices for fast cooking. 

Fry in a little oil or drippings over medium heat in the same pan you used for the meat (uncleaned) until golden (2-3 minutes) then add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and cover for five minutes.  Check to see if the vegetables are fork-tender.  If not, continue cooking until they are.  Set aside in a bowl.

Block 3: Other sturdy vegetables you want browned but not soft

This can include broccoli, zucchini, green beans, peppers, garlic onions, and anything else you want to get a little "fried" flavor before they go into the soup. Do not include delicate vegetables such as leafy greens or mushrooms, as they will over-cook.  Don't fry leeks, as they will turn really bitter when browned. 

Brown these on medium-high heat in a little pre-heated oil or drippings (2-3 minutes) using the same pan as you have been. Don't over-cook, or they'll be mushy by the time they get out.  Set them aside in a bowl. 

Block 4: Liquid

Generally this is water flavored with meat and/or vegetables.  You can spend all day creating homemade stock from scratch, but this is the one area where prepared versions are worth the time/taste tradeoff.  This means canned or boxed broth or stock, bullion, or soup base.  In the U.S., I use the "better than boullion" paste, because one jar lasts a long time, takes up a small amount of space, and ends up costing less than buying liquid broth.  They are good about declaring gluten-containing ingredients, but note that they do not declare gluten-free because they do not test.

If you've used a pan other than your soup pot for cooking blocks 1-3, add the liquid to this pan and cook off any drippings or cooked-on bits from the bottom before transferring to the soup pot.  That's good flavor you don't want to lose!  Otherwise, add liquid to the soup pot and bring to a simmer.

Block 5: Rice or Noodles

Blocks 1-4 all go into the soup pot once it starts to simmer.  Add additional liquid if it looks too thick.  Add parboiled or COLD cooked rice, or noodles at this point.  (hot cooked rice should go in block 7)You are about 10 minutes from the soup being finished!

Block 6: Delicates and Shellfish

5 minutes from the end of cooking time for your rice or noodles, add your delicates.  This includes spinach, chives, or other tender greens, shrimp or other shellfish or delicate fish, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs.

Block 7: Thickeners

Noodles and parboiled rice may take a few minutes longer to cook than in pure water, so test to make sure they are done before beginning this block.

If you are adding starch to thicken the broth into a stew (corn and potato starches work well), mix the starch in cold water to make a slurry first, then pour that into the soup while stirring.  This prevents clumping.  Keep the soup cooking and stir regularly until it reaches the consistency you want.  If it doesn't thicken in 2-3 minutes, add more starch. 

Add any freshly-cooked rice or noodles at this point.  You can also put the rice directly into the serving bowl and pour the soup over, for a nice presentation. 

For a cream soup, remove the soup from heat and let it rest five minutes before adding dairy, as it can curdle if it continues to cook. My favorite method is to just dump a small container of sour cream (about 1 cup) into a two-day batch of soup, and stir until it is evenly distributed.  This adds a light tang and a lovely smooth cream texture.  You can use heavy cream if you don't want the flavor of sour cream, or whole milk if you want a lighter texture.   Adjust quantities to taste. 

For a cheese soup, try a mix of cream cheese for texture and a smaller amount of finely shredded strong flavored cheese (asiago, cheddar, etc.) for flavor.  This can help prevent the cheese from getting stringy or granulated from lack of fat. Stir into the soup until it smooths out. 

Block 8: Garnish

Garnish doesn't re-heat well, so add it to individual bowls on serving.  This includes tortilla strips, bread cubes, crackers, fresh herbs or vegetables, shreds of cheese, and dollops of sour cream. 


Creamy Chicken and Chorizo Chowder
(Mix up the vegetables according to what's seasonal!)

Block 1
1 whole chicken breast, sliced into bite-size strips
1 pound package chorizo sausage, cut into bite-size chunks

Block 2:
2-3 medium-size yellow or red potatoes, sliced thin
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Block 3:
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into bite-size chunks
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin

Block 4:
8-10 cups chicken broth or stock

Block 5:
2 packets parboiled (instant) rice or 2 cups cold pre-cooked rice.
1-2 leeks, white and light green part sliced

Block 6:
1/2 lb fresh spinach (medium-size bag) or 2-3 cups chopped fresh kale, stems and large veins removed
handful of white mushrooms, sliced

Block 7:
1 and 1/2 cups sour cream (adjust to taste)

Block 8:
Optional dollop of sour cream and minced chives


(set rice to cook if you are not using instant)

1.  Fry meat, preferably in soup pot, until chicken is cooked through. Remove to bowl with drippings
2.  In the same pot without cleaning, fry up potatoes until starting to brown.  Add 1/4 cup water, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.  If they are not tender, cook up to an additonal five minutes, stirring, until they start to break apart. Remove to bowl.
3.  Add a little oil to the pot and fry Block 3 veggies on medium-high heat until starting to brown, stirring constantly.  Remove to bowl.
4. Pour chicken broth/stock into pot and bring to simmer over medium heat, scraping the bottom to stir up anything that has stuck from steps 1-3.
5.  Add rice and all ingredients prepped so far (steps 1-3)
6.  Bring back to simmer, add spinach and mushrooms.
7. When rice and spinach are both cooked, remove the pot from heat and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
8.  Add sour cream and stir until evenly distributed and creamy.
9. Serve with garnish in individual bowls.  Reheat leftovers in the microwave or stovetop.  Freezable.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gluten-free in Norway: Cheeses

Cheese is not the religious fervor that it is in France, but it is still pretty important to the Norwegian culture.  (See what I did there?)

I've sampled a good selection of cheeses found in the chain supermarkets in Trondheim for you, and review them here.  There are a couple of traditional cheeses I did not sample, primarily because caraway seed is a popular ingredient, and I'm not a fan.


This brown cheese is one of those national traditions that don't always translate well.  Whey, milk, and cream from either goats or a mix of goats and cows are boiled until all the water evaporates and the sugars caramelize.  If I had to describe the taste to an American, I would say to take a sweet, melt-in-you-mouth dulce de leche caramel sauce, and mix it with shelf-stable canned spray cheese. I'm still not sure how I feel about it, but am told by a very reliable source to eat it as part of a strawberry sandwich with butter. 


This classic swiss-style cheese is nutty, creamy, and delicious, and we use it as our all-purpose cheese for sandwiches, salads, crackers, and snacking.  



This is a much milder gouda-style cheese, if you don't want the strong swiss flavor.  Most shredded cheese you'll buy will be a combination of Norvegia and Jarlsberg. 

Grana Padano

In Europe, you can't call it Parmigiano-Reggiano, or even Parmesan, unless it is made in specific areas of Italy.  Grana Padano is a similar-tasting cheese that goes beautifully with a dollop of lingonberry jam on a piece of whole-grain gluten-free cracker.  It has become my favorite snack. 



A sweet, beautifully creamy spreadable goat cheese that is better than anything I have ever found in the U.S.  


Really stretching the definition of "cheese," but this is apparently a phenomenon for Norwegian youth, and I'm told that care packages sent to students always includes a tube.  There are other flavors of course, including ham, shrimp, and jalapeno, but the bacon flavored is the original and the most in demand.  It definitely tastes like bacon.  It's a bit too salty for me, but I can see a teenager sitting with a textbook and just eating it straight from the tube. 


 Of course, being so close to the rest of Europe, you can get excellent Roquefort, Camembert, Brie, and other imported cheeses.  Labeling laws are strong across Europe, so check for allergens (not always, but usually in bold font) on the label.  

 What do you eat all this delicious cheese with? These are our favorite gluten-free crackers:

The Wasa crackers are fairly hard, but whole-grain with lots of fiber.  They make great open-face sandwiches with lunchmeat and spreadable cheese, and are even fairly tasty with Nutella.

The Salti crackers are made by Schar, and are very close to Ritz in flavor except for being a little saltier.  They are really too salty for me, but we don't eat a lot of salt so most folks will find them perfectly tasty. 

If you can find it, Odin brand Potetbrød (shown below) is sold by the box and labeled "glutenfritt."  They are crispy sheets of potato cracker, and taste a lot like Pringles with less salt and more toasty flavor.  They're too fragile to spread on, but paired with some Jarlsberg and fresh fruit, they make a perfect lunch or snack. 


Monday, October 12, 2015

Norway Recipe Box: Pork Chops with Lingonberry Sauce and Pan-Seared Vegetables

This is part of my Norway recipe series, developed while living in Trondheim for four months.  These gluten-free recipes include items I was able to easily find locally and cook without access to an oven or microwave, and using no more than two stove burners.  This means they can be prepared in the typical kitchenette unit found in less expensive Norwegian apartments and hotels. Click Here for the full series

Pork Chops with Lingonberry Sauce and Pan-Seared Vegetables

This is a one-pan recipe, which reduces cleanup considerably.  Pork is a relatively inexpensive meat in Norway, compared to the very expensive beef.  If it is in season and suits your tastebuds, this same recipe could easily use lambchops. z

I switched to shallots instead of onions, as the flavor is similar.  They're smaller, so I don't have a half-onion sitting in the mini-fridge overpowering the entire apartment every time I open the door.  I store them in the cupboard, in a paper or net bag saved from previous purchases. 

Ingredients for two people (Norwegian word in bold):

2 pork chops (svinekoteletter)
1 jar lingonberry jam (tyttebærsyltetøy)
1 small bunch broccoli (brokkoli)
1 red pepper (paprika)
1 shallot (sjalottløk)
1 clove garlic (hvitløk)
2 sliced mushrooms (sopp)
1/2 lemon (sitron)

The vegetables are all optional and you should satisfy both your own tastebuds and seasonal availability.  The same pan-searing technique works for asparagus, green peppers, cauliflower, very thin-sliced potatoes, carrots, or any other sturdy vegetable. 

By the way, if you want a really tasty snack, add a dab of lingonberry jam to a slice of hard cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, and eat it alone or on a gluten-free whole-grain cracker such as Wasa.

Equipment:  frying pan with lid, spatula, aluminium foil, extra plate, prep bowl.


Let the pork chops sit out to reach room temperature as you chop veggies; it will allow them to cook more evenly.  Make sure you open a window, turn on any available vent fan, and/or turn off the smoke detector as possible/needed. 

  • Slice the lemon in half; the other half can go back in the fridge for other recipes.
  • Mince the garlic
  • Slice the other vegetables
  • Pile everything in a prep bowl
  • Heat oil in the frying pan on high heat (judgement call:  I had one underperforming unit where I had to cook meat on the highest setting,  and one over-performing unit where I had to cook it on the medium setting to prevent burning.  The oil should thin out like water but not smoke or spatter dramatically).
  • Add the pork chops
  • cook for three minutes, flip, then cook an additional three minutes
  • remove from heat and put chops on plate covered with foil to rest.  They will continue to cook and absorb their juices back in.
  • add more oil to pan as needed and place back on heat
  • Add vegetables and stir
  • Place the lemon half cut-side down on the bottom of the pan
  • Cover and let cook for five minutes
  • Uncover and stir
  • Cook an additional five minutes uncovered or until broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally
  •  Plate chops and vegetables, then add a spoonful of lingonberry jam to each chop.   


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Norway Recipe Box: Fiskeboller Pasta with Zucchini and Potatoes

This is part of my Norway recipe series, developed while living in Trondheim for four months.  These gluten-free recipes include items I was able to easily find locally and cook without access to an oven or microwave, and using no more than two stove burners.  This means they can be prepared in the typical kitchenette unit found in less expensive Norwegian apartments and hotels. Click Here for the full series

Fiskeboller Pasta with Zucchini and Potatoes

Fiskeboller are a very traditional Norwegian fish dumpling.  Normally I don't like fish.  Once a year or so I will try something fishy just to remind myself of that.  Because these are mixed with dumpling material and light spices, the flavor is mild enough to be good for that once a year test.  In flavor, fiskeboller are a lot like scallops.  They also come pre-cooked. 

Finding gluten-free fiskeboller was surprisingly easy.  Potato and tapioca starches are much less expensive here than wheat flour, so at least half of the packages I checked had no gluten ingredients.  The ones I used were in the refrigerated section of the supermarket.  There are also canned fiskeboller, which are much more common and more strongly flavored.

The very mild flavor means that you don't want to throw in anything to overpower them, like peppers.  I stuck to potatoes and a white sauce (very traditional) but added some color with zucchini, and mixed it up with some gluten-free rotini pasta and shaved jarlsberg cheese.

Equipment:  12 inch frying pan with lid, pot, colander, whisk, spatula

(serves 4.  Reserve half the pasta and cheese to cook the next day if intending leftovers.  Norwegian word for each ingredient in bold).

 1 500 gram package fiskeboller, drained of juices
 1 large fresh zucchini, chopped
3-4 small yellow or red potatoes, sliced thin (potet)
1/2 large onion or 2 small, sliced thin (løk)
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided (hvitløk)
2-3 white mushrooms, sliced (sopp)
 2-3 tablespoons potato flour (potetmel) or corn starch (maisstivelse)
1 package gluten-free rotini (or substitute extra potatoes)
2 cups milk (melk)
Olive oil for cooking (
oliven olje)
chopped slices of Jarlsberg cheese to garnish 

Set pot of water to boil for the pasta, and heat frying pan to medium.

Add oil to the frying pan and heat until it runs freely.  
Add onion and half the garlic to the oil and stir until fragrant
Add potatoes and stir-fry until starting to brown.  
Add 1/4 cup water and cover; turn heat down if necessary to medium-low.
Cook covered for five minutes.
Remove lid, add zucchini and more oil if needed, stirring until starting to brown.  If there is a lot of water left, turn up the heat a little.
Replace lid and cook another 5 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 
Add mushrooms, stir-fry until they darken, then remove all vegetables from pan.    

Start the pasta cooking (only as much as you need for this meal; cook it fresh for leftovers) 

Add the remaining garlic and some oil if needed.  Cook until fragrant.

Turn the heat down to medium-low. 
Mix potato flour or corn starch into cold milk, then pour into pan with the garlic
Use the spatula to stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to pick up cooked-on residue. 
As it starts to clump, use the whisk to smooth out the sauce.  Add more milk if it needs to thin. 
When it is evenly thick and bubbling, add vegetables back into the sauce, along with the fiskeboller.  
Let simmer over low heat until the pasta finishes cooking and the fiskeboller is warmed through, stirring occasionally.  

Drain the pasta. Place cooked pasta in a large bowl, top with the mix, and garnish with chopped slices of Jarlsberg. 

Reheat leftover sauce in a lidded pot or frying pan on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until everything is hot.  Cook up fresh pasta and chop fresh Jarlsberg to serve with the leftovers. 

Gluten-Free in Trondheim, Norway (Part 5: Recipes)

While these will also be available on my Recipes page, they are developed in Trondheim, Norway using ingredients I could easily find there, as well as the tiny no-oven kitchenettes I found in rental studios.  Generally these are for two people, with occasional leftovers. Hopefully this will be a handy index to get started cooking in Norway. 

Fiskeboller Pasta with Zucchini and Potatoes 

Pork Chops with Lingonberry Jam and Pan-Seared Vegetables

Gluten-Free in Trondheim, Norway (Part 4: Daily Grocery Shopping)

See my Gluten-Free Travel page for the whole series.  

Part 4: Daily Grocery Shopping

Maybe you'll get into a really swanky place with a full-size fridge, but the majority of places we looked at have a mini-fridge with two shelves, a tiny crisper drawer, and a little shelf space for a freezer.  For two people, there is room for about two days worth of food, maximum.  That's okay though, because fruits and vegetables here don't seem to store as well as in the U.S., and you should plan to use what you buy quickly.  U.S. habits of weekly shopping go out the window. 

The exception is Sunday, when only convenience stores are really open (7-11, some mini-Bunnpris).  These might have milk, but not many other gluten-free items.

The good news is that the vast majority of Norwegians, especially younger folks, speak excellent English and are happy to switch to English if you ask. 

Things you won't easily find here, that you might be used to finding in a grocery store in the U.S.:
  • Trash bags (you buy shopping bags for one kroner at the store, and re-use them for trash and recycling)
  • Vanilla extract (you can use vanilla sugar (vaniljesukker) in the same amount as extract)
  • Sudafed (prescription-only) or oral decongestants like Dayquil.  Norwegians either tough it out, or use nasal sprays to treat symptoms.
Grocery stores usually carry a small selection of cleaning supplies and hygiene items, but you will need to visit a specialty store for some things:
  • OTC meds, mouthwash, vitamins, first-aid supplies:  Visit an apotek (drugstore)
  • Cleaning utensils such as brooms and mops, kitchen utensils, etc:  find a hardware store, such as Jernia or Clas Ohlson
  • Alcohol:  some light beer is available in grocery stores, but all alcohol over 4.75% is only sold in the state-run Vinmonopolet shops, which are not plentiful and have odd hours.

As I mentioned in the last post, these are the grocery stores in Trondheim with excellent gluten-free selections:
  •     Bunnpris
  •     Rema 1000
  •     Kiwi (best produce prices)
  •     Meny (has the best overall selection)
 Look for the closest one using Google Maps; preferably within walking distance.

These stores usually have a full set of shelves of gluten-free items all clustered together.  You still need to read labels though, as they might stick some other special dietary items (like vegetarian) in the same area that are not gluten-free. 


By law, products with less than 100ppm gluten can be labeled Svært lavt gluteninnhold, or "very low gluten."  These might be suitable for people with light reactivity.  Products with less than 20ppm can be labeled gluten-free:


These are all different ways to say gluten-free, depending on the origin of the product (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.).  In addition, there may be a little picture of an ear of wheat with a circle and cross through it:
Allergen labeling in Norway is fantastic.  If a label has bold-font items, they are potential allergens, and we have found that we can generally trust them to disclose gluten ingredients.  Look for variants on these words:
  • Wheat:  hvete  (don't confuse with hvite, which is "white" or hvitelok, which is "garlic")
    • variants:  hvetemel (wheat flour), hvetestivelse (wheat starch, may be low or no gluten but cause those with wheat allergy to react), durumhvete (duram wheat), Kamut (species of wheat), Enkorn (species of wheat), hvetekli (wheat bran)
  • Barley: bygg
    • variants: byggmel (barley flour), byggmalt (barley malt)
  • Rye: rug
    • variants: rugmel (rye flour)
  • Triticale:  tritikale, a rye/wheat hybrid found in northern Europe and Scandinavia. 
  • Spelt (same as English)
  •  Farro:  emmer 
  • Oats: havre (only an issue if you are high sensitivity or cross-sensitive) 
In addition, there may be a "may contain" warning after the ingredients list.  It will read "kan inneholde <gluten, etc.>" or mention "traces of" (spor av).  "Ikke" negates whatever is after it, so "Ikke inneholde" would mean "does not contain."

We have not yet had an issue with packaged plain raw meat or vegetables having gluten cross-contamination, but tend to wash them off before cooking to be safe. 

At first, your daily trips may involve a lot of time staring at package labels.  After a few trips, you'll have a few favorite brands you buy, and the trip will get faster.  Remember to ask for the number of bags you'll need at the checkout.  They'll cost 1 kroner each, but are nice and sturdy, so they can be re-used either for future trips or trash can liners. 

Next: Recipes

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gluten-Free in Trondheim, Norway (Part 3: Your First Day)

See my Gluten-Free Travel page for the whole series.  

Part 3: Your first day in Trondheim

Unless you're very young and spry, you will probably be too jetlagged to do much your first day (or even your second).  Your goals should include decontaminating the space (if you have your own kitchen), and your first trip to the grocery store.

Decontaminating the Space
There isn't much you can do to keep a shared kitchen clean, so you will have to pre-clean before each meal prep.  This includes washing down the counters and stove, and then thoroughly scrubbing all pots, pans, dishes, cutting boards, and utensils you will use to make and eat that meal. 

If you have your own kitchen, use one of the two washcloths you brought for a full washdown of every surface, item, shelf and cupboard provided in the kitchen unit, as well as eating surfaces such as tables or trays.  Then you have a fully safe space you don't have to worry about.  That washcloth should be thoroughly hand or machine washed before using again, which is why you brought two!

While you're decontaminating, make a note of anything you need to pick up.  There might be ten espresso cups and no water glasses, for instance.  Or plastic forks but no spoons. 

First Shopping Trip

Grocery stores in Trondheim with excellent gluten-free selections:

    Rema 1000
    Meny (has the best selection)
Look for the closest one using Google Maps; preferably within walking distance. If you plan to use public transit and have a smartphone, look for options on the AtB website for digital ticketing. 

These stores usually have a full set of shelves of gluten-free items all clustered together.  You still need to read labels though, as they might stick some other special dietary items (like vegetarian) in the same area that are not gluten-free. 



These are all different ways to say gluten-free in Norwegian.  In addition, there may be a little picture of an ear of wheat with a circle and cross through it:

For the first day, don't get fancy.  Plan to do a little shopping every day instead of once a week.  Scandanavia is the home of Schar, one of the largest gluten-free manufacturers in the world.  So you will find shelf-stable bread, cookies, and crackers from Schar, all of which are mighty tasty.  For the first day, I would reccomend the following:

1.  Fresh whole fruit (always gluten-free of course, and easy to recognize)
2.  gluten-free mueseli or corn flakes (a cereal full of fruit, nuts, seeds, and rice or corn puffs)
3.  milk (Tine is the most common brand in Norway and we have not yet had a problem with their milk)
4.  Gluten-free bread or crackers
5.  Babybel or Jarlsberg cheese

If you have other dietary restrictions, you'll need to take it a step further and maybe buy some fresh veggies and vegetable oil for your first meals.  We're pretty dairy-heavy, and I realize that intolerance to lactose and casein are pretty common. 

Lactose-free products are labeled "laktosfrit" (with variations on the ending similar to the gluten-free list above). 

If you still have energy at this point, you could spend some time getting to know your neighborhood, working out bus routes, and looking for car rentals if necessary. 

Next: Daily Grocery Shopping

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Gluten-Free in Trondheim, Norway (Part 2: Packing)

See my Gluten-Free Travel page for the whole series. 

Part 2:  Packing

This is the minimum, and typical kitchen you'll find in any single-occupancy, non-luxury space. 

It is two burners, a sink, and a mini-fridge in the cupboard beneath the burners. Our's is a fancy newer model and I get a luxurious whole foot of counter-space. Unless you see it in the photos or it is specifically listed, don't assume that the space includes an oven, a microwave, a freezer, a dishwasher, or any other appliance. Plan on working with this much space.

"furnished with kitchen" may mean a range of things.  In one apartment, it was plasticware and paper plates, a worn teflon frying pan, a semi-melted spatula, a bunch of coffee cups, and an espresso maker (Norway is one of the largest coffee consumers in the world).  In another apartment it was a full set of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils (but, oddly enough, no spatula). 

The two most expensive things we invested in new when we arrived were a good sharp knife, and a stainless steel frying pan with a lid (both from Ikea, for around $30 total).

You might want to find room in your checked luggage to bring a few essentials along. All the frying pans we've encountered in the shared spaces have been very worn teflon, and gluten-particles can easily hide in the cuts and scratches to contaminate our food. A deep sautee pan like this one can double as a pot for soups, sauces, and rice, or you could throw in an additional small pot to cook rice at the same time as a stir-fry.  A can opener and a nylon spatula are good additions, as both tend to be difficult to decontaminate.  We found cleanable things like drinking glasses, tableware, etc. at a local thrift shop (Fretex is the Norwegian Salvation Army and have a store on Fjordgata in the city center). 

If you can afford it, investing in a set of backpacking kitchen tools (pots, pans, eating utensils, etc.) would eliminate your dependence on whatever your hosts have stocked. They'd also be nice and compact and lightweight for travel.   

As room permits, I would advise packing the following, in order of priority, to prevent gluten-contamination and to be ready to cook right away on arrival:

1. frying pan
2. dishcloths x2
3. dish towels x2
4. hotpad
5. sharp knife
6. can opener
7. spatula
8. pot with lid
9. scrubber for pot and pan

If you have tons of space, you could throw in things like a rice cooker, but remember that you have to haul it around a lot. Gluten-free flour mixes are plentiful here, but if you really depend on something specific (like tapioca flour) then bring it in your checked luggage.  Remember, though, that you might not have an oven.

If you plan to try and maintain your own dishes in a shared kitchen, add a plastic tote with a lid to the list.  This should take up minimal space, as you can pack clothes and other things into it and around it inside your suitcase. If you plan to simply pre-wash shared dishes, skip the tote.  Your own dishclothes are especially necessary in a shared kitchen, where the provided ones will be full of crumbs. 

If packing pots and pans sounds dubious, know that you can save a lot of space on clothes.  Since so few people have clothes dryers, clothes are often worn several times before washing, and then air-dried on racks or lines. The general low humidity means that most clothes dry within 24 hours even in rainy weather.  I discovered that I had packed ten or twelve outfits when three would have been plenty; even for four months!

Casual dress is the norm, and you'll see people out at restaurants in jeans, hiking boots and windbreakers on a regular basis.  If you are travelling in summer, expect weather similiar to the Pacific Northwest, and bring a light sweater and jacket to layer for cool evenings, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans (two if staying more than three days), and a few tee-shirts. In fall or winter, skip the shorts and add a second, heavier sweater and a coat, scarf, hat, and gloves.  Winter gear is easily available here, and high quality.


After a cross-continental flight on Delta where I discovered by accident that the fancy handsoap on the plane was designed to leave a layer of wheat gluten on the skin as a moisturizer, we travel with our own hand soap.  Softsoap makes a travel-size body wash that works well and is available at most pharmacies and grocery stores in the travel section. 

Also note that airlines rarely clean the surfaces between flights, and serve lots of gluten.  Wet wipes, even baby wipes, will help you decontaminate your seat area (tray table, screen controls, etc.).

About a week before your flight, call the airline to confirm that you have requested a gluten-free meal.  You'll be spending a minimum of 12 hours in airports and planes, so make sure the airline is doing some of the work to feed you.  If you have multiple dietary restrictions, you might be on your own.

You'll want to bring snacks.  Remember that you won't be able to bring any liquids over 3 ounces into the terminal, so don't count on smoothies.  You can, however, bring an empty water bottle or thermos to fill at the drinking fountains once you're past security.  Otherwise expect to pay $3.00-$5.00 for bottled drinks.  There are sometimes restrictions on air travel with whole fresh fruits, so it's best to avoid them.  Bring sturdy, filling things like granola bars, dried fruit, carrot sticks, and gluten-free beef jerky and pretzels, and enough to feed you for 24 hours if necessary.  This accounts for unexpected weather delays, as well as the fact that you won't want to immediately go grocery shopping after a 12 hour flight. 

Suggested list for carry-on packing:

1.  handsoap
2.  hand sanitizer
3.  wet wipes
4.  empty water container (fill before getting on the plane)
5.  gluten-free snacks for 24 hours
6.  earbuds
7.  European plug adaptors and step-down converters for phones chargers and laptops (hard to find here, but Radio Shack and Best Buy have them in the U.S.)
8.  Any medication you will need for the trip, in original prescription bottles with your name
9.  OTC pain pills
10.  Anti-diarrhea and antacid meds.

Next up: Your First Day in Trondheim

Friday, September 18, 2015

Gluten Free in Trondheim, Norway (part 1: Finding a place to stay)

This is part one of a series on visiting Norway with a severe gluten sensitivity and/or Celiac.  For the other parts, see my Travel Page.

My partner and I have embarked on the grand adventure of living in Norway for four months (essentially the fall semester).  He is doing research at NTNU, the major university in Trondheim.  Since Norway is a civilized country, they offered a spousal allowance in the grant for me to accompany him.  So I am taking a semester off school myself.

My partner is severely gluten-sensitive.  He has gotten sick several times just by sitting at a table at work where someone ate pizza or sandwiches, or grading papers with crumbs on them, and absentmindedly touching his face or handling his own food. We keep the entire house strictly gluten-free, after a full decontamination when he was first diagnosed five years ago.  (A shout-out to our marvelous group of tabletop gamers, who have been willing to only bring gluten-free snacks to our bimonthly game!)  I avoid eating gluten myself, because I can transfer gluten easily via my skin, clothes, and mouth after I indulge.

So fast-forward to the idea of spending four months trying to live gluten-free in a rented space in a foreign country where we do not even speak the language. It's taking a lot of trial and error, careful reading and translating, and a lot of planning to do.  It's also completely worth it!  Hopefully, some of what I learned will help you plan a trip to Norway, even if you're not staying quite as long.  

STEP ONE:  PLAN AHEAD (selecting a space)

You gotta have a kitchen.  This is something that most folks without food allergies don't understand, because they can order takeout for every meal.  There are a few high-end restaurants in Trondheim that do gluten-free meals (although their level of gluten-free is questionable as they use shared cooking spaces with gluten).  But eventually you will need to make food for yourself, at which point a regular hotel room is too limited. 

The first challenge to gluten-free living in Norway is the predominance of shared space.  The majority of places to live have shared kitchens; especially in a college town like Trondheim.  Bread is an enormous staple here for all meals, so if you are very sensitive, you need to do the digging to find a place with your own kitchen you can decontaminate and keep clean. If you can handle a crumb here and there, you may be able to get by simply by washing dishes and surfaces before prepping each meal, or keeping a set of clean dishes and cookware in a tote separate from your housemates.  

For a Short Stay (up to two weeks):

There are a few "apartment hotels" in Trondheim, whose rates are fairly competitive with Airbnb.  They book quickly though, and they may not have rooms available on short notice or for long blocks of time.

City Living Hotel and Apartments has an English website.Ttheir rooms seem to start around 600 kroner a night for a room with its own fridge and shared access to a large communal kitchen.  A "Superior" room with its own kitchenette starts at 700 kroner per night.  The Trondheim location is right in the City Center and close to everything you will need or want in Trondheim. 

Trondheim Leilighetshotell has an English-language page, and includes pricing information (starting at 700-900 kroner a night for a studio apartment with a small kitchen).  It is a poor location if you don't have a car.  It is quite a hike to the nearest grocery store, and not always with sidewalks.

There are much more expensive options (starting around $1500-$2000 kroner a night) but if you can afford those, you should be working with a travel agent for the best up-to-the-minute accommodations.  

For a Long Stay (or if the hotels are full): 

You will need

Generally a lifesaver, but has some tricks to know.  Good for translating specific websites, but navigation often suffers within the translator.  For instance, with Airbnb, you'll want to open specific listings in the original website, THEN paste the individual listing into translator to read in a second tab.  The image gallery in most cases will also work better in the original site, so don't try to view images through the translator.  If you have the translator app, it will suggest corrections to misspelled words, which happens as often in Norwegian as it does in English.

AirBnB is perfect for short-term rentals in actual homes in Norway (generally up to a month).  You pay a flat rate per night, week, or month and it includes all utilities for a fully furnished place. As with all of these websites, some places are listed incorrectly as the entire apartment or house when it is really a shared space.

Hybel is a Norwegian site for listing short and long-term rentals and sublets.  Long-term rentals in Norway means two to three years, so you are looking for short-term if you are just visiting.

This is the Craigslist of Norway.

Both Hybel and Finn are buyer-beware; they do not have the guarantees or payment system of Airbnb.  If you're staying for more than a week, you may want to book two or three nights via Airbnb, then look for a better place once you are here.


Number of rooms: Apartments are listed as the number of rooms, but Google translate interprets "2 roms" as "two bedrooms" when in fact it means the entire flat is two rooms: probably a living/dining area and a sleeping area.  1 rom is a studio, which may have one or two tiny beds or just a sofa bed.  The number of rooms does not include the kitchen and bathroom.

Meters square: Again this does not apply to the kitchen and bath; only the primary rooms.  It is often listed incorrectly.  If a listing has a large number of rooms but a small square meter listed, it is probably a shared space and you are only getting a bedroom.

Bedsit: The cheapest option you will see will be for a bedsit, which is a single tiny bedroom in a dorm-style space with a shared bathroom.  There may or may not be kitchen or laundry facilities.  Many bedsit places seem to be rented on the assumption that the occupant will survive on takeout.

Parking: If you plan to have a rental car, make sure there is parking available.  Public parking is much more expensive the closer you get to the city center.

Cost: Housing is not cheap in Norway, and Trondheim is especially expensive.  For your own space, expect to pay in the neighborhood of 8000-11000 kroner per month, or 500-1000 kroner per night in or near the city center (in the bend between the river and the fjord).  Prices drop as you get further away from town, but the necessity of having a car rises proportionately. type "NOK to USD" into Google to get a currency converter. 

Location: Norway is an extraordinarily low-crime place compared to the U.S., so I would not be especially concerned about "safe" and "unsafe" neighborhoods.  Instead, the focus should be on amenities.  Grocery shopping is something you should plan to do every day, as many places only have mini-fridges in the kitchens with space for two or three meals.  Our American habit of having everything available in one store is also a hard one to break.  Use Google maps to search for the following near your prospective place:

Grocery stores with excellent gluten-free selections:
  • Bunnpris
  • Rema 1000
  • Kiwi
  • Meny (has the best selection)
Other potential needs:
  •  apotek (drugstore), as grocery stores don't carry any kind of over-the-counter medications like aspirin.  
  • Hardware store (Jernia or Clas Ohlson are the most common chains)  Here is where you will find brooms, mops, adhesive hooks, tools, and often kitchenware such as pots, pans and utensils.  You could also visit Ikea by bus, car, or taxi for your cookware. 
  • Things to do:  Are the places you want to visit in Trondheim nearby? 
  • Fretex:  The Norwegian Salvation Army stores have the same assortment of kitchenware as the U.S. thrift stores, and might be your best bet if you just need a few basics.  Remember to re-donate when you go. 
If you don't plan to have a car, you will want to see how far you are from major bus routes.  Google Maps is fairly unreliable for transit outside the U.S., so go straight to the source and look at the AtB transit website, available in English here:

The transit system here is safe, reliable, and widespread.  When you arrive, get a transit card and load it for the time you will be staying for the best price.  It is much more expensive to buy individual rides as you board.

Next:  Part 2, Packing for Norway

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Recipe Box: Baked Falafel with Tzatziki Sauce

I try to walk a line between fresh ingredients and convenience.  Some things (like fresh parsley) make a big difference to flavor and are worth getting fresh whenever possible.  Others (like chickpeas) work just as well from a can, and you don't have to start the day BEFORE you are craving these delicious little patties of garbanzo goodness.

Falafel is one of those foods that are claimed by multiple countries, and which have very loyal adherents to specific ingredients.  Cilantro or parsley?  Egg or no egg?  Coriander or cumin?  There are strong regional differences between Falafels, but no recipe is really "correct."  It's about what tastes good to you.  I like a really strongly-flavored, garlicky falafel.  There's a lot of fudge room in the recipe as well.  If you add more or less onion, it will survive just fine.   


1 small bunch fresh parsley (1/2 cup chopped.  You will need an additional 1/4 cup for tzatziki sauce)
1 can chickpeas or garbanzo beans (they are the same thing.  You will get about 1 cup beans, drained)
1/2 small white onion (about 1/4-1/3 cup, chopped)
2 cloves fresh garlic (you will need an additional clove for tzatziki sauce)
dash lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
dash salt, black pepper
1/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs (I use Udi's, but see below for substitutes)
1/2 tsp baking powder

4 tablespoons olive oil for baking

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Oven rack should be in center of oven or just below.  If it is too high, the bottoms will not brown.

If you own a food processor, this becomes easy.  Just process everything but the baking powder and spices until it is like wet sand, then mix in the spices and baking powder.

If you're like me and don't have the kitchen space, mince the garlic, onion, and parsley.  Add everything but the baking powder together.  Use your hands to knead and squish until you have reduced the chickpeas to mush with pieces in it.  This will be messy, but also kinda fun!  Mix in the baking powder last.

Brush a rimmed baking pan/cookie sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Form the dough into small flat patties of no more than 1/4 cup each.  Brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. 

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, then carefully flip and bake for another 15.  Make tzatziki sauce while baking.  Serve warm with sauce in a gluten-free wrap or salad.

Tzatziki Sauce

1/3 cup sour cream or plain greek yogurt
1/3 cup grated or shredded cucumber (peel on)
1 finely minced garlic clove
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
dash lemon juice

Mix all together and let sit in fridge for at least 20 minutes for flavors to blend.  Keeps well for 2 days, stir before serving.  

*Breadcrumb substitute:  I love Udi brand's bread crumbs, but they're not available everywhere.  A toasted and crumbled slice of gluten-free sandwich bread would work well.  You can also use 1/4 cup sweet white rice flour, 1/4 cup chickpea flour, or 1/4 cup bean flour instead.  Plain white rice flour would not work, as you need it to work as a binding agent.  A gluten-free all-purpose flour blend with lots of starch should work well.  If using gluten-free Bisquick, omit the 1/2 teaspoon baking powder called for in the recipe. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Recipe Box: Gluten-Free Banh Mi

Banh mi simply means bread, and you can usually find these Vietnamese sandwiches in the form of a baguette stuffed with all kinds of deliciousness.  At some places, like the Tin Drum chain of restaurants and some food trucks, the banh mi is referred to as a "Vietnamese taco" and is served on flatbread.  While baguettes are possible to make gluten-free, flatbread is quick, easy, and delicious.

In fact, when I set out to search for a flatbread recipe, I had no idea that I already had one.  Many recipes for gluten-free wraps or pitas online use a ridiculous amount of xanthan or guar gum to create the chewy flexibility.  For some folks, that's fine.  For my partner and I, xanthan gum really messes up our digestive system and we feel really ill for a few days if we have too much.  So the recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring caught my eye for being gum free.  Then I noticed that her recipe was pretty much traditional Pão de Queijo (Brazilian tapioca bread) but rolled out and pan-cooked instead of baked into rolls.  Maybe this should have been an obvious solution considering the chewy deliciousness of Pão. 

The best timing on this is to make the dough first so that it can rest in the fridge.  Then matchstick the veggies to give them time to pickle.  Then prep the rest of the filling ingredients.  The exception of course is if you're slow-cooking some fancy pulled pork or something, in which case that obviously has to happen first. 

With Pão de Queijo you bake the dough while it is still warm and sticky, but for wraps they really need to sit in the refrigerator until quite cool to make them workable.  Otherwise you will never be able to roll them flat.  Do not skip this step, but if you need to shortcut it you can separate the dough into individual balls (about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup each), flatten them slightly, and stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes.  I have not yet frozen the dough completely to see how it behaves after thawing, so don't leave them in longer than you have to.

Once you have the dough made up, it can sit in the fridge for three days wrapped air-tight in plastic wrap.  This makes it perfect for quick meals, as you can just tear a couple of hunks off, cook them up, fill them with leftovers or lunchmeat, and have a hot meal in 20-30 minutes. 

Ingredient substitution:

If you can't find daikon radishes, use half the amount of shredded red radishes and increase the carrots.
If you can't find shisito peppers, which might be sold at an Asian grocery as sweet peppers, then you can substitute a combination of green bell pepper and jalapeno pepper to your desired spiciness.  Dice or shred the seeded jalapeno very small. 

WRAPS:  (full Pão de Queijo recipe here)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups tapioca flour (also sold as tapioca starch)
2 cups shredded or grated cheese (anything meltable: mozzarella, cheddar, colby, etc.  We use the bagged pre-shredded Mexican blend or mozzarella from Publix)

  • Bring the milk and butter to a full rolling boil, stirring often to prevent scorching
  • Remove from heat and dump in the tapioca flour all at once and stir vigorously until it is all moistened
  • Move to stand mixer with paddle or dough hook attachment
  • Mix on low until cool enough to touch without scorching, but still warm (may need to stop and pull the sticky dough off the beaters if it clumps)
  • Add half the eggs, beat until incorporated, then repeat with the other half
  • Add the cheese and beat until incorporated
  • Separate into two or more chunks and cool completely in fridge (up to an hour).  Will cool faster in smaller pieces, or rolled out into a long snake.  
  • Dough keeps in fridge for 3 days if tightly wrapped.

  • Preheat a cast-iron or non-stick skillet at least 10" in diameter to medium heat
  • Tear a chunk off the dough about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup in size.  
  • Flour a surface with tapioca starch (have more on hand)
  • Dust the dough with starch and roll out, dusting as it sticks, to preferred thickness.  Tortillas can be very thin, roti should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  • Cook on skillet for about 2 minutes. Should be stiff enough to pick up with a spatula, with brown spots on the underside.
  • Flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. If desired, brush with olive oil and garlic/herbs, then flip and cook an additional minute.
  • move to a plate and cover with a paper towel to keep warm, or use a tortilla warmer.
  • These do not keep well in a cold lunch, but can be re-heated by cooking on a hot skillet for 30 seconds each side.


Makes about 4 wraps.  Multiply the recipe if you want leftovers for the next few days.

1/2 cup carrots, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup daikon (white) radish, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup red onion, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup shishito peppers (sweet mild peppers) seeded, shredded or thin sliced 
1/2 cup white or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar

Boil the water, vinegar and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved.  Let cool (can quick-cool in fridge or freezer)
Pour over veggie mix, mix well, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Leftovers are good in fridge for up to 3 days

OTHER INGREDIENTS:  (All optional)
 Chopped cilantro
lime juice
meat (chicken, beef, and pork are most common)
shredded or matchsticked cucumber

A little meat, a lot of pickled vegetables, a smear of mayo, a handful of cilantro and a drizzle of lime gets you what you see in the photo.  But as this is a pretty versatile wrap, you could fill it with just about anything and be happy with the result.